GE-13: International Poll Monitors needed

February 24, 2013

GE-13: International Poll Monitors needed

by Dennis Ignatius (02-23-13) @

COMMENT: Any time now, Malaysians are expecting parliament to be Reject Barisan Nasionaldissolved and general elections to be called. It comes at a time when Malaysians have grown increasingly concerned about the state of their nation after over 55 years of  abusive one-party rule.

Rampant corruption and gross abuse of power have wrought untold damage. The institutions of our democracy – parliament, the justice system, the civil service and the media – have been rendered dysfunctional by an overbearing executive.

Predictably, respect for human rights has deteriorated; billions have been lost to corruption and the country continues to slide in terms of key benchmarks on transparency, graft, press freedom and good governance. More than 300,000 Malaysians migrated in 2008-2009 alone.

While the government has publicly committed itself to liberalising the public square, its actions have left much to be desired. Political reforms have merely altered the letter of the law while leaving intact the spirit of repression and control behind them. In short, the reforms are nothing more than an exercise in deception.

If nothing changes, Malaysia could well find itself a failing state.In recent years, Malaysians from all walks of life have come together like never before to signal, in no uncertain terms, that they want change.

police-brutality-at-bersih3-02Last year, hundreds of thousands of citizens turned out across the nation to demand free and fair elections. They were greeted with tear gas, chemical spray, razor wire and riot police.

Other citizen initiatives have also received hitherto unheard of levels of support. This rising political activism is profoundly encouraging and can only be good for democracy.

Hopes and Fears

Now on the eve of the very critical 13th general election, both hope and fear abound. The hope is that change can be effected in a peaceful and democratic manner through the ballot box and that we can reclaim our democracy, regain respect for human dignity and rebuild our nation. The fear, on the other hand, is that the will of the people will be thwarted by massive electoral fraud or by other means.

In the last general election, the government was clearly unprepared for the huge swing to the Opposition and the corresponding loss of key states. This time around, their actions suggest that they are not going to take any chances.

Thousands of dubious voters, for example, have suddenly been registered with many sharing the same postal address. Migrant foreign workers also appear to have been illegally added to the electoral rolls.

These concerns are so widespread that 92 percent of Malaysians surveyed recently wanted to see the electoral rolls cleaned up before the elections. Clearly, the Election Commission (EC) no longer enjoys the confidence of the electorate.


Indeed, there are already so many discrepancies and inconsistencies in the electoral roll that some consider it almost impossible to have free and fair elections. The EC, of course, denies these allegations but refuses to carry out an open and transparent investigation.

To all this may be added the gerrymandering that has gone on for years as well as the government’s near total control of television and the print media. The electoral playing field in Malaysia is, therefore, anything but level.


The Prime Minister has called on the Opposition, as well as all Malaysians, to accept the results of the elections. It is a reasonable request provided that the elections are conducted properly. In any case, he himself has not given a firm commitment that he and his party will also respect the results of the elections and facilitate the peaceful transfer of power to the Opposition, should it somehow win.

Other democratic nations can help

Malaysia’s partners abroad, particularly other democratic governments, are no doubt already fully aware of the situation in Malaysia. Their ambassadors and high commissioners stationed in Kuala Lumpur would have surely briefed them concerning the unfolding situation here.

Besides, many heads of government, foreign ministers and others have also visited Malaysia over the years. Hopefully, they saw more than gleaming towers, shiny new cars and easy pickings. Regrettably, democratic nations all too often put strategic and business interests ahead of the very principles of freedom and democracy upon which their own nations are premised.

The question is what will other democracies now do at this critical time in Malaysia’s history? Will they stand on the sidelines or will they stand up for democracy?

No one is suggesting, of course, that they send in the marines, impose sanctions or plot regime change; the struggle for democracy in Malaysia is ours and ours alone. It will be won or lost on the strength of our own courage, conviction and determination to bring about peaceful change.

There is much, however, that other democracies can legitimately do to help. They can, for example, insist that the government conducts the elections according to internationally accepted democratic standards and in an open and transparent manner consistent with our constitution.

They can shine a spotlight on the whole electoral process and, if it proves to be fraudulent, deny the government the legitimacy that it seeks within the community of democratic nations. Democracies must hold one another accountable, must they not?

International poll monitors needed

Democratic nations can also press the government of Malaysia to accept real election monitors, not the ones from non-democratic nations that the government tends to prefer. Malaysia has, after all, sent election monitors to other countries and should be open to receiving them as well.

Nick XenophonIn fact, parliamentarians from all democratic nations, and particularly from the Commonwealth, should visit Malaysia in one capacity or another during the elections whether or not they have been invited. They might suffer the same fate as Australian Senator Nick Xenophon (left) who was deported from Malaysia recently as a “security risk” for coming to talk about electoral reform, but at least it draws attention to the situation in Malaysia.

Western democracies in particular have tremendous leverage. They have used it many times before to secure defence and other contracts or gain strategic advantage. They ought to use that leverage now to help ensure free and fair elections.

Perhaps, events elsewhere in the world – especially the sudden rise of more radical, anti-western regimes – have caused democratic nations to be wary of change. As the argument goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Those in Malaysia who seek to resist change are counting on that.

The situation in Malaysia is, however, completely different. We now have in place a united, credible and viable democratic alternative to the governing party and the beginning of a genuine two-party system that is a fundamental prerequisite to a functioning democracy. This is an exciting political development in itself with far-reaching and positive implications for Malaysia’s future.

Contrary to official propaganda, therefore, change will not bring chaos and uncertainty but real stability, prosperity and greater freedom for all. A free and truly democratic Malaysia can, and will be, an inspiration to other developing countries. Malaysia can be that role model for democratic transition and change that is much needed in the world today.

Democratic nations have an obligation, therefore, to hold a watching brief as Malaysia prepares for elections.

13 thoughts on “GE-13: International Poll Monitors needed

  1. Elections? Tipu Election and Parpoo politics. I am sure that Najib will not have the courage to call for elections any time soon. He is scared that he will lose. Forget about end of March, 2013. February is about to end and he has yet to announce the dissolution of the 12th Parliament. This Prime Minister has also signed a pledge initiated by Transparency International-Malaysia Chapter and I am surprised that Dato Paul Low thinks Najib will honour his pledge. The truth is that Najib will do anything to win the election and is getting all the help from the Election Commission.

  2. The former Ambassador dares to speak his mind. There are others of his kind who prefer to suffer in silence. So don’t complain. It is going to be tough to displace the incumbent government because they have their bases covered. Elections will be called when Najib is sure of success. –Din Merican

  3. I think there are many foreign groups — NGOs and others — who would be happy to come to Malaysia to monitor the elections. But will the Government let them? The odds are against it. The head of the Malaysian EC went to Thailand last year to officially monitor their elections. Yet the EC takes a different position about themselves — foreigners will never understand our system, we don’t need foreign interference, everything is perfect with our system, etc.
    Ambassador Malott,

    They may be agreeable to having crony types as election observers. Cronies protect each other. Gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua (I help you, you help me).–Din Merican

  4. The Philippines had its home-grown poll-watchers (NAMFREL) monitor their 1986 and subsequent elections.

    If the kleptocratic UMNO Baru-BN regime will not allow respected people like
    Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson into Malaysia, we
    need to set up a NAMFREL type organisation quickly.

    The original NAMFREL in the Philippines is willing to help us by providing advice too ! 🙂

  5. Bersih .03 should make a contribution to clean up the environment. As a start they should distribute free Yellow Garbage Bags. Some of us do not mind if we have to pay for them. We are already pay for the black or blue bags.

  6. I think we should invite Filipinos to monitor our polls.- Bean
    Then Mama Rosie will want to sing Dahil Sayo like Imelda Marcos. You have the stomach to listen to her version after her famous “what if I don’t wake up?”

  7. Internationalized Malaysian general election issues?

    If so, it is as good as British, Aussie, American, Japanese and Filipinos advices, monitoring and administering the country to serve their interests! Remember Malaysia was colonized when our Malay Sultans sought foreign advices?

    Don’t be misled, foreigner powers/expertise would never help you truly to build a strong and prosperous nations or individuals, unless you are capable of doing and learning own ways, the rightways.

  8. Rightway,
    There is nothing wrong in having an international observers. Even Soviet Union has American observers visiting their nuclear facilities long long time ago

  9. We are not in any position to conduct the topsy turvy affairs of the present ruling party in view of the lackadaisical attitude of the present government machinery that have reached a point of sinking into the deep blue sea. Malaysians can see very clearly that whatever goodies or incentives given to the people at this time will not bring back the love of BN with all the lies,arrogance and sweet melodies for support in the election. We know that most Malaysians working overseas are desirous of coming home to vote on polling day even if it falls on weekdays for the love of the country and the future of their sibblings. Together we can overcome all obstacles that come our way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s